Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Anime Review: Mawaru Penguindrum

Quick note, I'm going to be at a con later this week so the plan is that Thursday's post will go up extra early and that Saturday and Sunday's posts will go up on Sunday together (and I'll make sure both of those are already written before I leave so I don't have to try and write them during post-con-lag). To make up for that next Wednesday I'll have my "continuing anime I'm still following" post and then next week I'll explain what my blogging schedule is going to look like from mid-January until sometime in May or later.

Back when information about this show first started surfacing I heard somewhere that it was going to be a kids show about penguins which didn't interest me terribly, even if Ikuhara of Revolutionary Girl Utena fame was directing it. And then Psgels of the Star-Crossed Anime Blog pointed out something interesting, the show was going to be taking over a late night slot so it certainly wasn't going to be for kids and posted some of the trailers which were filled with the characters darkly wondering about fate which did seem rather interesting. It's not Utena in any way shape or form, let's get that out of the way first, which isn't a bad thing, it's simply it's own story with some similar themes but really doesn't make for a good comparison.

Mawaru Penguindrum

Summary: Kanba, Shouma, and Himari are three siblings who all live together by themselves but Himari doesn’t have long to live. After she dies she is brought back to life by a mysterious penguin hat and the entity who resides in it tells Kanba and Shouma that this is only temporary, to bring Himari back to life permanently they must find the penguindrum, whatever that might end up being.

The Good: Mawaru Penguindrum is a strange, twist and symbolism heavy show which made for rather gripping storytelling and gave fans much to discuss every week. Nearly every character underwent significant character development (to the point where it's surprising who is the most crazy and who is the sanest by the end) and the story knew exactly when to show a flashback and when to keep the audience in suspense. I adored the show for all it's craziness and know I'll re-watch it in the future to see what details I missed the first time around.

The Bad: Not quite everything about the show is explained in the end and at times it's hard to tell when the location/actions on screen or symbolic or real which does bug some people. Sanetoshi wasn't the most gripping villain the end but that didn't bother me as much since the show didn't actually need a villain most of the time. It would have been nice to get a little more explanation on some parts of the show, or a view from a character unconnected to everything since it becomes clear that everyone remembers the past differently, but I'm not sure how well that could have been worked in. Shouma also takes a bit too long to do anything important and Ringo becomes a much more minor character in the second half but those were my only major complaints with the series.

The Audio: This is the first time I’ve seen a show where both openings were sung by the same singer but I really liked the effect. Normally it’s a little jarring when the opening or closing song changes but the visuals in both of the openings were incredibly similar and the endings also felt very connected through their imagery. There were actually ten different ending songs (and four insert songs) which bothered some people but I liked, no matter how great a song is it won’t fit the mood on every occasion so I liked how the songs got switched out*. As for the actual voice actors, this is the first major role for Ringo, Kanba, and Sanetoshi’s voice actors and the very first role for Himari’s which I find amazing, they were all great and I really hope to hear Himari’s VA in particular in more works.

The Visuals: The show had some absolutely great looking episodes (special mention goes to episode 18 which featured a lot of people who worked on Casshern Sins and it showed) and some bad looking ones (those didn’t bother me as much as they bothered some people but many people loathed how episode 10 looked). Hopefully the DVD/BR releases will clean up some of those episodes since when the art was good it was great, lots and lots of eye candy with interesting details and lovely color schemes.

As I've probably made abundantly clear, I loved this series so even the flaws it has doesn't bother me as much as they have bothered some people, possibly because I wasn't expecting certain things to get resolved/answered in the first place. I really hope someone licenses this show and brings it over so I rewatch it again and try to introduce more of my friends to it as well.


*actually, in one episode, I forget which had an ending that was really different from the previous episodes and I was thinking “man, when the song kicks in we’re in for some major mood whiplash” but then the song was different and it worked, that’s what the songs are supposed to do.

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